I wanted to be cosmopolitan, so I redecorated my veranda using a sea green, vinyl bus seat, and I hung a Chinese lantern as my muse. I drank only the bitterest coffee sent directly from Jamaica through a friend of a friend’s ex.
I felt no different.
I tried to speak in a made-up accent at Clyde’s country market. My 47 year-old boss told me the accent somehow made me less attractive…that and my fetish with mustard hues of makeup. He fired me when he found that going back to his wife was better than a mustard-tainted affair. I secretly think he didn’t like the tattoo of my deceased gerbil above my right hip bone. I think it adds dimension.
As you can assume, my boss didn’t send me on my way with a large bonus to fund a trip to “cosmopolitate” myself. Instead, he told me not to come back until I’d washed either the mustard or the gerbil off my body. I didn’t concede to either.
“You’re fucking weird, and how would Cecil feel about keeping his eyes open when you use the powder room?” he yelled, as I stormed out.
I’d actually never thought about that, and I felt a little inconsiderate that I didn’t ask the temperate creature at his vigil. I decided to pack my bags that night, and I rode to the nearest train station the next morning on my two-person bike. Contrary to advertisement, these lovebird bikes are hard to navigate alone. The emptiness made me consider telling Jerald where I was going. Then, I remembered that I have absolutely no idea myself, so I felt less guilty. Jerald would probably come over looking for my Jamaican coffee. He’d grown attached to it. He was becoming a bore, regardless.
The nearest loading station was less than a mile from my house. It was not a passenger train. Rather, it shipped extreme amounts of corn silage from the plethora of farms in the area. I snuck into a car, and I tried my accents out on the heap of corn silage across from me. It ignored me.
I fell asleep a few times, and I felt faint from my grainy companion’s overwhelming aroma, but I survived the trip. I was caught trying to sneak out on the sly at the drop-off point.
“What in the hell are you doing, ma’am?” a young boy, probably 15 years of age or so, asked me. He was shorter than me. I’d always been lanky. I always resort to talking about Cecil when I need an escape route.
“Do you think Cecil’s eyes should be open or closed?” I asked, showing him my ink with genuine interest in his response.
“What…is that a… gerbil?” the punk blurted out.
“Open….yes…that’s what I thought originally,” I agreed, with my most rational air.
I lost Earl in the crowd of workers. I refer to all unknown boys as Earl. It’s a very easy classification system.
As I continued walking in my new location, I considered whether I was more or less cosmopolitan. My relocation had not yet increased my cultural awareness. I decided to befriend the local barber. Barbershops are great places to “cosmopolitate” oneself.
“Marshal….hmmm,” I said, pondering the name of the first barber I could locate.
“I assume you like kabobs, heavy on the red peppers,” I noted.
“Yes, your assumption is correct,” he said without looking up from his current client’s waxy scalp.
Marshal and I didn’t talk after that, but I felt a touch worldlier.
As I left the shop, I remembered that I hadn’t packed any food to eat during this venture, so I scouted out the least appropriate restaurant. Appropriate would mean that I hadn’t aged in cultural terms. Tips and bleach-washed floors and food regulations bored me. I ended up at Marcy’s 4 bedroom/2 bathroom duplex.
“I’m not buying any of that God is coming, end of the world crap,” she originally hollered at my entrance.
I didn’t want to remove this God-squad element to my growing cultural identity, so I deferred to taking about Cecil instead.
As it turned out, Marcy used to have a pet bird named Harold. I really didn’t care for birds, but she gave me macaroni salad out of a reused, low fat coolwhip container, so I was genuinely grateful.
It wasn’t until later that day that I had a sudden epiphany.
I left my mustard makeup at home, and the furry Cecil may still be alive!
Marcy drove me the long trip home, happily chattering away about Harold’s infatuation with frosted animal crackers. I jumped out of her station wagon without paying her.
“Birds always come back home in the spring,” she said, squeezing my shoulders a little too roughly. I didn’t know if she was referring to her bird reincarnating, or her coming back to visit.
I didn’t ask. I ran up my house steps, and I swung open my unlocked door. I darted into the third room on the right side of the hall. I found him underneath my suffering magnolia display. Cecil was sleeping contentedly in his cage. I poked my finger in and petted him. He was one dreadfully ugly, delightful gerbil. He really looked nothing like the gerbil face imprinted on my hip.
Well, that saved me from having to worry whether his ink eyes should be open or closed. However, now I had to figure out where this gerbil on my hip originated, and I didn’t want to retrace my previous, cosmopolitan-seeking adventures.
Instead, I took Cecil out of his cage, and I rocked him back and forth in my departed aunt’s favorite rocker. I think I’ll just wait for Marcy to come back. I’m going to bank on the latter interpretation of that farewell.
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